Monday, November 8, 2010
My Favorite Things: Anderson Valley
I'll admit, if you get carsick, some of our roads can be tough. However, roads like these exist in every wine region unless you don't stray off of Highway 29 in Napa. In reality, Anderson Valley is only two hours from San Francisco. Just enough to feel like you're on vacation. And just enough to enjoy the scenery through Marin, Sonoma, and up into the wilds of Mendocino County.
Every day in the tasting room I'm asked what my favorite Anderson Valley to-do's are. So, in no particular order (because it all depends upon what you're in the mood for), here are my recommendations:
1) Taste wine, of course! You can find a list of wineries with tasting rooms at http://www.avwines.com./ You can't go wrong with the Pinot Noirs, crisp white wines and sparkling wines that Anderson Valley is known for.
2) Visit the farmer's market on Saturday morning at the Boonville Hotel, followed by a cappucino or dark chocolate mocha and pastry at Mosswood Market & Cafe, across the street. Try the goat cheese and bacon empanada. Yum!
3) Grab some supplies at either the Boonville General Store or Lemon's Market in Philo, pack a backpack, and hike the old-growth redwood grove at Hendy Woods State Park. Wrap up the afternoon with a picnic in the park.
4) After Hendy Woods, stop by the Philo Apple Farm to peruse the self-serve farm stand. Some of my favorite products are the apple cider syrup and balsamic syrup for to-die-for salad dressings with just a little olive oil and vinegar. The apples and ciders are amazing, too!
8) Drive one of the mountain roads. If you don't mind twists and turns, take Mountain View or Greenwood Ridge Road over to the coast and enjoy the scenery. Or, if you have a sturdy car and an adventurous spirit, take Fish Rock Road. Just be prepared for several hours and a good, long patch of dirt road in the middle. More people live out these roads than you'd think, hours from anything, so watch out for fast-driving locals and logging trucks in the summer. It's all part of the experience. You'll see vineyards up here and old apple orchards, on ancient homesteads first settled more than 100 years ago.
9) Make a trek out to Machester State Beach - one of the most amazing and deserted beaches in the area. No dogs allowed, but an amazing place to pull up a driftwood seat and watch miles of crashing waves.
10) Kayak Big River and see otters, birds, and just a few other river travelers as you drift with the current, then paddle your way back out (or visa versa, of course, depending upon the tide). An amazing, peaceful voyage that is especially quiet in the shoulder seasons.
11) My favorite dinner spots for a casual meal? Libby's mexican food in Philo: you have to try the carnitas and a michelada beer. Also, Lauren's is a favorite spot for an amazing burger with a fresh bun, lots of carmelized onions, and crazy good fries. Try it with a bottle of local sparkling or a Boonville Beer and you'll be in heaven.
12) Oysters and Roederer on the Boonville Hotel patio in the summer. Sunday, 4-7 p.m., but summers only.
13) Walk Boonville. The biggest town in the valley now has quite a few to-do's of its own. Tasting rooms within the town limits include Foursight, Londer and Zina Hyde Cunningham. There's the John Hanes art gallery and several cafes and shops, including the Mercantile for adorable kitchen and other wares. The ice cream shop is now owned by the Boonville Hotel and serves up organic ice cream and treats with just enough space outside to watch the passerbys, and Anderson Valley Brewing Co. is at the outer reaches. You can park downtown, put on your tennis shoes, and walk to and fro all day. If you like disc golf, cap it off with some beer on the course at the brewery.
14) The Mendocino County Fair, mid-September. The school bus here literally drops kids off at the fair after school on Friday. It's a quaint, country fair with lots of rides and games, animals, a wool and fiber show complete with spinning demonstrations, food, drink and a rodeo. A special treat: the sheepdog trials on Sunday morning.
If you want more recommendations for your Anderson Valley trip, I'm always happy to answer questions and give recommendations. kristy @ foursightwines.com.